DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #13: Why I’m A Moron…no, I mean why it wasn’t the smartest idea of me to pursue acting considering there are other options. What did you think I meant?

MY NAME IS DAVID PROWSE!!!

DON’T WANNA READ? THEN LISTEN!:

I’m the son of two lawyers. My dad was the son of yet another lawyer, and my mother’s grandfather was a judge. I come from a long line of lawyers, judges, and smart people. Smart, in this case, because they chose stable careers with solid paychecks. I, on the other hand, am a moron. I’m a moron because, out of nowhere in a family of people who chose stable careers, I chose one of the most unreliable, unpredictable, and financially risky occupations in the world: an actor. And yes, all voice-over jobs are acting jobs as far as I’m concerned. It’s show biz, and it’s a business that doesn’t know much in the way of job security. Rather than making this story about me, though, I offer up two other people as perfect examples of the unpredictability of show biz. If you’ll permit me, let’s start by talking about a man by the name of David Prowse.

What can be said about this guy? Well, he was an Olympic champion in weightlifting, and the guy who trained Christopher Reeve to get into “Superman” shape. He also played one of the most famous characters in the history of cinema. Under most circumstances, I’d find some way to drop subtle hints as to which character it is, but to hell with it, the picture at the top of this blog entry kinda gives it away. Yeah, he played Darth Vader. “BUT NO–“….I can…hypothetically hear some of my hypothetical readers and listeners saying. “–JAMES EARL JONES PLAYED HIM!” Jones provided the voice, certainly, but he wasn’t the guy in the suit. Prowse, who was cast largely because most people had to break their necks in order to look up and make eye contact with him, actually said all of Darth Vader’s lines on set, but every single word he uttered ended up on the cutting room floor. George Lucas never intended to use Prowse’s on-set performance, but there were many people that he did not inform about that. “Many people,” in this case, included Prowse himself. You wanna know where he was when he found out that he was overdubbed?

In a movie theater, premiere night.

…Not quite what Prowse was hoping for. But hey, maybe he was treated better in the sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back”? Not really. He was forbidden from doing any of the lightsaber fight scenes because, when they filmed the lightsaber fight in the first movie, Prowse kept accidentally breaking the wooden lightsaber props that they were using to fight. So for all the fight scenes in the sequel, he was replaced by professional swordsman, Bob Anderson. It doesn’t end there, though. You wanna know where he was when he found out about the legendary “I am your father,” line?

In a movie theater, premiere night.

Lucas hardly told anyone about that line because he was determined to make sure that secret didn’t leak before the movie was released. Instead, Prowse was handed a fake script in which that iconic line was replaced with the line, “Obi-Wan killed your father.” A rather ingenious change considering that the rest of the script still works even with that change, but Prowse wasn’t as amused. So much so that, come “Return of the Jedi,” having been reduced to nothing but a guy who dressed up in a heavy suit and stood in front of a camera for hours on end, his heart (understandably) just wasn’t in it anymore. Rumor has it that he didn’t even say Darth Vader’s actual lines, and just kept making lewd jokes during his scenes, knowing that he would be overdubbed. That would be enough pain for one actor, but…you wanna know where he was when he found out that there was a scene where Darth Vader was unmasked?

In a movie theater, premiere night.

That’s not him when Darth Vader is unmasked at the end of the movie. That was actor Sebastian Shaw. Prowse has said that he regards “Return of the Jedi” as the worst filming experience he has ever had.

Jones, for his part, was not credited as the voice of Darth Vader until the third movie, when George Lucas insisted. Jones didn’t want to be credited, because he didn’t think he had done anything worth being credited for. Ya know, aside from the whole “providing the voice of one of the most memorable villains in cinematic history” thing, his efforts really were pretty negligible. At least that’s how he viewed it. He felt he was “special effects,” not a performance, because that’s the stance he took in a separate incident years prior. On that note, let’s talk about Mercedes McCambridge.

You know what she did, even if you don’t know it. You know that creepy voice that the little girl had in the movie, “The Exorcist,” when she was possessed by the demon? That was McCambridge, who overdubbed child actress Linda Blair. She swallowed raw eggs, smoked cigarettes non-stop, and drank excessive amounts of booze every day in order to capture the demonic voice and unpredictably savage nature of her character. A fake bed was also set up for her, and she was tied in restraints, so that she would feel like Linda Blair’s character, who was strapped to a bed for most of the movie. For her efforts–and utterly chilling performance–she was rewarded by being told after the fact that she was only “special effects.” She was not credited, and Linda Blair was nominated for an Oscar. Oh and by the way, you wanna know where McCambridge was when she found out she wasn’t credited?

Yup. In a movie theater. Premiere night.

SAG quickly came to her rescue and demanded that she be credited, and she was…but not as the voice of the demon. Not even to this day. Her name just appears on the credits.

This tremendously unreliable business is the business that anybody who wants to become a voice actor is voluntarily entering. It’s a tough one. One that doesn’t care if you invest tons of money. One that doesn’t care if you spend hours trying to find a way to improve your career. One that, to a degree, doesn’t really care if you’re talented or not. Even if you are immensely talented, you will probably find yourself struggling financially. If you are voluntarily deciding to go down this path, then…yeah, you’re a moron.

A moron like me.

I can’t not be an actor. I don’t find passion in anything else. I do my best to make a career out of acting, but it ain’t easy, and it never will be. I act because I love it, and don’t mind the (MANY) obstacles in the way of making money out of it.

For that matter, I don’t mean to sound depressing, or be a downer in writing this. VO, and acting, is a very fun thing! It’s just that the fun parts of this career are well-documented and well-known. The less exciting parts are kept on the down-low. Just know that this is what you’re getting into if you decide to pursue it. Only pursue it if you can stand the many challenges and don’t care. My response to all my challenges has been, and always will be, “Hmm…well, I guess I’ll have to step up my game a bit, now won’t I?” Hopefully, that’s you too. I’m proud to be a moron in that regard–this career may not be the smartest career to pursue, but it’s one that I have an unmitigated passion for. So, it is with a very sincere smile on my face that I say, from one moron to all the other morons out there, know that I’m rooting for your success, and congratulate you for following your passion! 😀

PS: For those interested, here are two short videos, both of which act as “before and after” videos of sorts to show how Darth Vader and the demon sounded before and after the dubbing process. For the sake of coherence, the first one is about Vader, and the second is about the demon.

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24 thoughts on “DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #13: Why I’m A Moron…no, I mean why it wasn’t the smartest idea of me to pursue acting considering there are other options. What did you think I meant?

  1. omg, Dave, I love this post! With an IQ that got me into Mensa, and as a college grad at 20, I guess I could been a “contenda” in something that might have provided a more, um, predictable career and lifestyle (not to mention bank account). But – acting it is. I didn’t choose it; it seems to have chosen me. But somehow this crazy business has allowed me to pay my mortgage, raise my family, make lots of similarly-crazy friends, and even pursue some other passions – while, each and every day, I get out of bed excited to see what might happen next. Is the business fair? Hell,no. But – well, you know. I’m a moron too. Thanks!
    Randye

    • Ah man, Randye, really? Mensa and graduating college at 20? Not bad, lol! Still, you’re smart enough to recognize that this business isn’t always predictable…although I’m sure you probably figured that out without any help, right? Nevertheless, like you, I didn’t choose acting, acting chose me. Sure, every once in a while I wish rocket science chose me instead, but every time I’m performing–be it on stage, on camera, or in a booth–I remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. This really is an occupation where your passion needs to be your ultimate guide. Thankfully, most professional actors agree, which is why you rarely meet an actor that isn’t passionate about something. I tip my hat off to you, fellow moron–you’re in good company!

    • …Ya know, as somebody whose brand is supposed to be the voice of the “cool big brother,” sometimes I’m hesitant to make confessions about any part of my personality that appears contrary to that image, but to hell with it–I’m a huge Star Wars fan, so thanks for the link, Billy! I do think that, as time goes on, voice actors are treated with more respect and recognition. Some even had it worse than Prowse and McCambridge. The original voice actress for Snow White (in the animated movie of the same name) was forbidden by Disney (the guy AND the studio) from making public appearances as Snow White, because he wanted the image of Snow White to remain unaltered in any way, shape, or form. At least Prowse and McCambridge could publicly say out loud, “Excuse me, that was us!”

  2. …wow, Dave. i already knew the stories you told. but when you segued into the personal stuff I almost teared up. you could be describing me. it’s true. you simply “can’t NOT do it”. i know, i tried giving up a few years ago and get a “smart” job. but there was just nothing else i could get into at my late stage in life that would improve matters. someone offered advice at that time: “Instead of putting that much effort into starting over with something you don’t want to do…why don’t you put that same effort back into something you do?”

    …by the way, i hope you have my own good fortune of at least having friends in the business who think you are a Genius.

    rg

    • Well thank you for that, Rowell!

      As for having a few friends in the business who are Geniuses…yeah, I have a few. They’re the people who do acting part-time as a hobby, and then make money through their “real job.” LOL

      Okay, joking aside, I may be a moron, but I’m a moron who at least wakes up happy every day because I’m immersed in the job that I truly want to do. So good for you that that’s the path you decided to take as well. Like I said, I’m rootin’ for ya!

  3. Great post… you Moron!

    I really enjoyed this. I didn’t know the story behind either movie. You certainly did some nice research here. And i appreciate your philosophy as well. One surely has to be more than a bit crazy to stay in this business, much less enjoy it with a life long commitment to it.

    Thanks for your efforts, Dave!

    Moron, Rick Lance

    • Hahaha…you know, I’ve been called a “moron” several times today, and this is one of those rare instances where I’ve been called “moron,” and not been offended by it in the slightest. 😀

      Glad you enjoyed it, Rick! We may be morons, but I think there’s a sense of comradeship among us morons because, since we’re in this because of passion, you rarely meet an actor who isn’t passionate about what they do.

  4. I really enjoyed this blog. One of my highlights was learning how Mercedes McCambridge prepared for her line in the Exorcist, true dedication to our art!

    Your honesty and clarity as to why you entered this field and continue to enjoy it rings true to our industry! Thank you!

    • Thanks a ton, Lynne. 🙂

      Ho boy, yeah, Mercedes was one talented actress. One who, despite winning an Oscar, never really shined in Hollywood because, to quote her, “Hollywood wasn’t really interested in what I could do.” She found much more success as a radio actress…which, back in the day, pretty much meant “voice actress.” She was so immensely talented that Orson Welles referred to her as, “The greatest radio actress alive.” Which is probably the reason the the director of “The Exorcist” went to her to begin with. Supposedly, the original plan was that he was just going to electronically lower Linda Blair’s voice, but when they tested that out, it sounded like…well, it sounded like what it was: a voice that was electronically lowered. He felt it would sound more realistic if another voice was there, to really drive home that another presence had taken over the little girl. For that reason, he went with McCambridge.

      What really worked in McCambridge’s favor, in my opinion, was that her voice was pretty low to begin with. So by doing all that stuff, she made her voice even lower, and gave it that androgynous quality which makes it more creepy. When you first hear her voice, you’re not sure if it’s a man or a woman. The breathing was also particularly interesting too, because she said she based that on how she actually used to breathe when she had bronchitis………

      ….Okay, tell ya what, I could talk forever about McCambridge, so I’d best stop myself. If you want to know more about this amazingly talented woman, then I’ll refer you to this great interview she gave back in the 70’s:

  5. You are a wealth of info Dave – I am definitely interested in watching/listening to that interview with Mercedes. Thank you. As far as the Exorcist movie goes…as an impressionable young girl watching with my siblings, I took many kitchen breaks, lost sleep for about a week and NEVER watched it again.

    Although, wen my brother was a student at the Georgetown Law center, I didn’t miss the opportunity to look at those stairs….. yikes!

  6. I may do car spots, and uh,ahem, even sink to lawyer ads, but it beats the daylights out of nuclear engineering or proctology. Money ain’t evahthang.

    • Heh, “sink to lawyer ads,” eh? Y’know, someone once said to me that, “There’s a lawyer commercial being aired right now in which the VO was digitally pitched-down to (in theory) sound more deep and authoritative, but it sounds silly and dishonest.” I replied, “Well, it’s a commercial about lawyers–are you sure THAT’S not why it sounds dishonest?”

  7. Hi Dave… great vo stories
    And here’s another one : Andie MacDowell in Greystoke…. fromTCM.com
    “… Andie MacDowell persevered in an industry that tried to write her off right from the start. In fact, MacDowell had one of the more inauspicious of film debuts with her leading role in “”Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” (1984), in which her Southern twang was dubbed over by the more erudite voice of actress Glenn Close.”

  8. Excellent David.
    Or, as I often say “if you want to get into this game, you are obviously NOT in your right mind. But don’t worry; you’ll have lots of company”
    From one “moron” to another. Amen

    dc

    PS thanks for the audio version. Most of my reading coherency’s are used up “working”

    • You’re welcome, DC, my moron comrade! Glad you enjoyed the audio version, too…I figured long ago, it would be kind of weird for somebody in voice-over not to voice their own blog.

  9. Thanks Dave for sharing all you have here. After 26 years of being a complete moron, I sometimes wonder what else I can do…well…there’s nothing else I can do or want to do so I’ll die a moron…but I’ll be in good company. All good things to you Dave!

    • Moneen…wait, is that the Moneen I think–

      *checks email address*

      YES IT IS! Good to hear from ya, Ms. Movibe! You’re right, the VO community (which I suppose could be affectionately read as, “the moron community” in this case) has some great people in it, and I’m proud to be in its company. Good things to you too, Moneen!

  10. Well, Dave….you must be one of the most brilliant morons I have ever come across! All the things you say ‘hit home’ in such a unique way. There is clarity in your logic, there is humor in your post, and there is more truth there than many fellow VO actors care to admit. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and I have taken my sweet time getting out of the starting blocks because I wanted to do it right, but the formulae is an inexact science (read: GUESS WORK) at best. You have managed to make being a moron the optimum choice and you have followed your passion, as I have, with the heart of a champion. You have helped us realize there is no one right way, no perfect execution of the craft, and sometimes it’s a whole lotta luck, but honestly….I wouldn’t change a thing. Our individual VO careers make some great stories! The results are a really cool mix of tenacity splashed with energy and combined with a little magic—POOF!!—VO wonderland! Kudos on your blog….it continues to make me smile!

    • Well Susan, first and foremost, thank you for your kind words! I don’t claim to be a smart guy–never have, never will. I am, as always, just a guy who writes his opinions online and discusses them with whoever wants to talk. In any event, many people’s journeys may *not* end in VO Wonderland. One of my mentors once said to me…

      “Okay–hypothetically–let’s say a genie comes and tells you your entire future…and among the many facts he tells you, he tells you that for all your efforts, you will never be a particularly successful actor. Would you still want to do it?” My smartass response was always, “Well that’s stupid, why does it have to be a genie, why can’t it be Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Terminator? He came back from the future too, ya know!” However, after that was out of the way, my quick but honest answer was, “Yes, I still would.” This job is truly one guided by passion, and if you’re so passionate about it that you’re willing to go through a lot of unfortunate stuff that’s not always entirely predictable…then you are, at least in theory, of the proper mindset to be an actor. You’re still a moron, but a moron is of the proper mindset for this job! 🙂

  11. Pingback: DAVE’S AUDIOBLOG ENTRY #19: Why Nobody Looks At Me…no, I mean why nobody looks at the videos that I post on YouTube. What did you think I meant? | DAVE'S AUDIOBLOG

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